After putting a new spin on the Neil Young classic “Old Man” in 2011, Redlight King is back in the spotlight with their new single “Bullet in My Hand” from the album Something for the Pain. Although “Old Man” was a breakout song for Redlight King, “Bullet in My hand” goes deeper into the rock roots of the band, fronted by the extremely passionate and exceptionally creative singer known as Kaz.
With Something for the Pain, Redlight King’s redemptive Hollywood Records debut album, Kaz relives both his darkest days and the turn-around, when he clawed his way back to the light. Balancing both rock and hip-hop on an exploration into the human condition and what it means to endure, Redlight King is much more substance over style in an era that favors style over artistry.
The Deadbolt recently went one-on-one with Kaz of Redlight King to get his thoughts on making Something for the Pain, how he’s grown as a musician and artist, coming out of the dark into the light, and the success of both “Old Man” and “Bullet in My Hand.”
THE DEADBOLT: What’s it been like to have people connect with your experiences through the album? It must make the pain worthwhile to some extent.
KAZ: It’s just fantastic. It’s different for everyone. We’ll be on the road and people will come up to me and quote a line from the album, from a particular song, from a B-side and not necessarily from the singles, and say, “Hey, you really got me on this one. This is where I’m feeling you.” It’s an awesome feeling to connect with people like that.
THE DEADBOLT: How have the songs given you new insight into who you are as an artist and musician?
KAZ: As a songwriter, I think the real nod to me was when we finally got Neil Young to hear our version of “Old Man” and he thought it was great. To me, as a songwriter, that was very confirming. He never says yes and he never slips, that guy’s got it down. He’s “Mr. Integrity.” That was very personal for me, when one of the best songwriters around said you did okay.
As far as the rest of the album, I think it was an album I needed to write and an album I needed to get out. It’s a lot from personal experience. It’s a lot about the human condition and what we all go through, and what we may not go through, at certain times in our lives. It’s an album that I don’t know I’ll go there again. I’m really glad people are connecting with it, but I don’t think they’re songs I’ll continue to write. I’m not saying I’ll never write again but it’s just the growth of a human being. I’m still growing as a songwriter, so it’s a continuous thing.
THE DEADBOLT: After being at it for over ten years, how did it feel to go to a new level of success in the United States?
KAZ: It feels good. It feels good in a way that I understand that my livelihood is extended. I don’t know if that’s a feeling of relief so much as it is just generally being satisfied that regardless of what happens from here, I’m able to do what I love to do. That’s the name of the game for me.
THE DEADBOLT: What was behind the decision to release “Old Man” first?
KAZ: It wasn’t my decision. But that’s okay, because I put people around me that I trust. It was such a great story that I’m not upset that we went with it first. The song was very well received and it definitely gave us a story. But also there was a genuine level of respect for that song and what we did rather than any repercussions of sampling an iconic song that could have easily gone the other way.
I’ve always been an original songwriter and believed in that, done that and suffered for that. So going with a song with a sample first was a little uneasy. Choosing singles to me has always been an impossible feat. If somebody thinks they’ve got a formula for that, they’re lying to you. You never know what’s going to connect with people.
THE DEADBOLT: What does the song mean to you now as compared to when you wrote it in such a dark place?
KAZ: It’s the same. It was an important song that I had to write. The only difference is that people hear it now, before they didn’t. I started writing that song three years ago.
THE DEADBOLT: How did your old man feel about it?
KAZ: You know, I never really know. He called me when it was first on the radio and he said, “You’re back on the radio!” So he was excited for that. But as far as the emotional connection and the deeper meaning of the lyrics, he’s that guy in that song. So I wouldn’t exactly know how he felt.
THE DEADBOLT: After writing “Bullet in My Hand”, do you feel lucky to have a career in music, like the lyrics of the song, or do you think it was all happening for a reason?
KAZ: I don’t know what it all means, but I am grateful to be living and breathing and making music. That’s why the song, every time we play it, it means something. And I go there with all of the songs. To me, that’s the art. We tried to capture what the song is and make a recording of it, and that’s your album. I think we got it on that one and I’m proud we picked that as a single.
I’m also very proud that it’s doing well. It’s an edgy song, a tough song, but it’s got real life and real meaning behind it. Maybe it happened for a reason, maybe it didn’t, but I’m glad it happened. Not the dark part but the part where I’m able to look back on it.
THE DEADBOLT: With the bomber in the video, can you appreciate what those guys went through in the war?
KAZ: Hell, yeah! My grandfather, he flew that Lancaster. I grew up with pictures of that Lancaster. He was in the 305th Polish Bomb Squadron in World War II. He flew 44 missions, which was almost twice as many as most guys. He flew Wellingtons and Mosquitoes, but his main bomber was a Lancaster. It was -40 in the tail. Those guys were in the Crow’s Nest waiting for other guys, so I can only imagine the things they went through. And that video was an ode to my grandfather. We live in scary times, but I hope we’ve moved past that a little bit. There’s still shit going on but I do really appreciate it. It’s kind of why we put that aesthetic in the video.
THE DEADBOLT: After being in such a dark place in life before the album, how did you find the strength to move forward and wipe the slate clean?
KAZ: I just take it day by day. I really just take it day by day. When I think I got it beat is when it’ll creep up on me.
THE DEADBOLT: How does that relate to “When the Dust Settles Down”?
KAZ: It’s just me talking to myself. It’s just really inviting listeners to what’s going on inside my head. It’s a very vulnerable song. I’m telling myself that, to start over again. The dust really has settled down and the worst is behind me. I’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of purpose now. I just have to go out and do it. At the same time, that’s why I feel the band is moving on now beyond my own internal thoughts. It’s becoming its own organism. It’s rock and roll. I really don’t try to over-analyze all of the small things, but they make for great songs.
THE DEADBOLT: So what’s next for you guys? I hear you have enough for a new album.
KAZ: I do, but we have a couple more singles we want to put out from this album. I really want people to look a little deeper into the record. Also we want to continue to tour. In 2012 more than ever, the live band is really coming back. I think rock is not doing well “at the box office.” It’s not making huge sales in the big piece of the pie. But at the end of the day, it’s the roots of it. So I feel like being a strong live band is more important than ever. I feel that’s our role, for us to tighten and tune and continue to also grow as a band, and a live band, and continue that torch.